Top Tunes ’18: Josh Miller

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Wow! 2018 has come and gone, and it’s about time we reflect on our favorite sounds of the past year. Leading up through the end of the year, WOUB Culture will be spotlighting what various music-centric people throughout the region have been enjoying the most for the past 12 months.

Josh Miller. (Submitted)

Hi, I’m Josh. I play a lot of music. You can usually catch me in Slackluster, Weird Science, or Big Wet Dream. I’m a big fan of playing music and I like listening to music even more. That’s probably what inspired me to play it in the first place. Some might say this makes me more qualified to share my opinion on music but between you and me that’s really not true. I’m a fraud who likes music and this is what I’ve been listening to. Happy Holidays.

Total Destruction to Your Mind/ Swamp Dogg

Swamp Dogg is the alter-ego of singer Jerry Williams and it’s like George Clinton, Joe Tex, and Timothy Leary were all melted into one enigma. The album is full of catchy soul songs that hit to your core and could easily be the back drop to any romantic home-coming scene, but with choruses like “as sure as the sun will shine shine shine/ I’m gonna do total destruction to your mind mind mind “, you get a dose of punk rebelliousness that is hard to come by in soul music. Check out Williams’ explanation for the birth of his alter-ego. He truly is an underappreciated icon.


Bananamour/ Kevin Ayers

Probably my favorite Kevin Ayers work, this album really sees him expand his reach beyond his psychedelic roots in a way that feels genuine and exciting. There are great examples of Ayers’ mellow take on the underground New York sound in tracks such as “Shouting in a Bucket of Blues”, but my favorite track, “When Your Parents Go to Sleep”, is an epically satisfying soul jam. One that evokes the feeling of triumphantly closing down the local pub with your best mates as you sloppily swing shoulder-to-shoulder. That’s a musical feeling I never get tired of.


Twisted Crystal/ Guerilla Toss

My first pick that was actually released this year is a swarming concoction of psychedelic-funk nursery rhymes by the ever-evolving Guerilla Toss. I was lucky enough to open for and to witness this band live at this year’s Falloutfest at the Union and it was undoubtedly one of the most exciting shows I’ve seen in recent years. In an age where music is transitioning to digital and pre-recorded formats, Guerilla Toss procures a fantastic mix of danceable rock n’ roll and bold avant-garde experimentation that gives hope for the future of live bands.


Mambo Sinuendo/Ry Cooder & Manuel Galbán

This might be one of my most “dad rock” picks, even the cover indicates this album is the soundtrack to your Friday night retro car show at the local diner, but the truth is I don’t care. This album is a perfect mix of traditional Cuban music and American Surf and it just feels right. Whether it be at a car show, on a road trip, hanging by the pool, or where-ever, this album perfectly straddles the line between interesting and ignorable, which makes it a great soundtrack to almost any occasion.


Wide Awake! /Parquet Courts

I’m sure this album topped a lot of people’s lists this year, not to be unoriginal, but it’s just a great chunk of rock n’ roll. In fact, Parquet Courts is a great band. I didn’t think they would top 2017’s “Human Performance” but this one is just as exciting if not more. I’m glad they are out there carrying the torch for guitar based rock music and doing it in a way that is contemporary and unique. In a time where it seems the general public thinks rock music should just be a sell-out carbon copy of the past(ahem, Greta Van Fleet), Parquet Courts is trudging on with their freak flag and fighting the good fight with the rebellious spirit that made rock n’ roll and punk so special to begin with.


I Am Not Afraid/ Hugh Masekela

A fusion record devoid of pretension and brimming with smoothness, Hugh Masekela succeeds in transporting the listener to Nigerian jungles and sea-side market places while maintaining a familiarity of jazz and funk sounds that gives this record an excellent listenability and exotic edge. With its mellow optimism and slick major key melodies it’s a great album to help fight off the winter blues.


Southern Grass: the Continuation of Rock and Roll, Vol. 1/Vacation

The ever-prolific Cincinnati based pop-punk outfit Vacation never disappoints. Comparable to the speed of their hook-laced scuzz, they put out epic albums, usually pushing near 18 tracks, so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. I’m still absorbing this infectious 2017 release even though they’ve put out two more incredible records since. Once you get hooked on them you are never short of new material that is seeping with fuzz and energy that makes you proud to know they hail from our home state.


Jesus of Cool/ Nick Lowe

I once considered Nick Lowe to be the poor man’s Elvis Costello, and while to some extent I may still think that, I’ve begun to consider that it’s a good thing. With less pretension and expectation holding him down it’s clear that Nick Lowe has a lot of fun. And that is exactly what this record is; it’s a lot of fun. Beyond that, with songs like “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass” and “So It Goes” you have incredibly catchy and danceable tracks that should definitely be considered classics by any power pop and proto-punk fan.


Cymande/ Cymande

This has become one of my favorite funk albums of all time. It easily blends soul, jazz and African rhythms into dance tracks that have a visceral quality to them. You can almost smell the cigarette smoke in a 70’s dive while the hedonist spirit of that era courses through every beat. Released in 1972, and way ahead of the curve, music like this makes me feel like I really missed out by being born in 1988.


Harumi/ Harumi

Little is known about this psych-soul collection by a mysterious Japanese artist other than it was released in 1968 and Frank Zappa didn’t like it. Well unfortunately for Frank’s credit this album is great. It has a flower-power quality that can sometimes be nauseating but here it has an authenticity that blends with jazz, soul, and pop to make songs that are interesting as well as catchy. It even ends with two psychedelic voyages that push 20 minutes each. Luckily it was reissued in the 21st century and not buried in the mountains of bad flower-power bands.


Skiptracing/ Mild High Club

Although it was released in 2016 this record features a good dose of 60’s lounge jazz and R&B that swirls around with heavy psychedelia into a blend of sounds that is absolutely unique to the modern music sphere. Not only is their sound something to be excited about but their name perfectly embodies what they have to offer. It’s that kind of witty acuity that gives some insight into the age-old question of, “What’s in a name?”